Wolves own the worst record in the league with 14th straight loss
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The Minnesota Timberwolves' losing streak ran to 14 games in a 135-127 overtime loss to the Phoenix Suns on Monday -- and they now stand alone in the cellar of the NBA standings as the league's worst team with one game to play.
The Cleveland Cavaliers continued their end of the season surge to push ahead the Wolves in the win column with just one game remaining, beating the Detroit Pistons 110-101 for their 18th win of the season. That's one more than the flailing Wolves, who have sole possession of the worst record and would be entitled to 25% of the ping-pong ball combinations in next month's NBA Draft Lottery.
The Wolves were once again without services of Kevin Love and Darko Milicic. Love missed his fifth consecutive game with a nagging groin injury and Darko sat his second-straight game with an ankle injury.
Without the two starters, the Wolves went with a lineup that might have given Wolves fans flashbacks of Mark Madsen chucking up 3-pointers while in tank-mode. Luke Ridnour, Wesley Johnson, Michael Beasley, Anthony Tolliver and Nikola Pekovic all got the starting nod, the first time that combination has been rolled out in the starting five.
Credit must be given to the Wolves for putting forth a full effort for the first time in seemingly weeks. Rambis once again gave his players a moral victory afterwards, saying he was proud of how the team showed heart and didn't quit. The hodge-podge starting five all managed to score in double-figures, including a season-high 22 for Tolliver.
Beasley scored a team-high 26, but his performance will likely be overshadowed by a late-game meltdown. He pounded his chest screaming "I'm back" after a hitting a game-tying shot but missed the ensuing free throw, failing to convert the three-point play that would have given the Wolves the win. Later in overtime, Beasley was screaming at teammate Anthony Randolph after he failed to realize the shot clock was winding down.
The Wolves' 3-point defense -- or embarrassing lack thereof -- was what killed them in the end. Phoenix shot a ridiculous 18-of-29 62.1 percent from behind the arc. Channing Frye alone was 9-of-14 from distance for a game-high 33 points.
Randolph played well off the very short Wolves bench, scoring 24 points on 10-of-20 shooting in 33 minutes. But mistakes late in the game showed that he -- like the rest of the Wolves team -- still have a long ways to go. The inexcusable shot-clock mistake in overtime was matched in stupidity by a fourth-quarter technical foul for swearing and slamming the basketball.
Jonny Flynn's poor sophomore season might have hit a new low. Despite only playing three minutes, Flynn managed to go 0-for-2 from 3-point range and turn the ball over before sitting the rest of the game. Wayne Ellington played backup to Ridnour in the fourth quarter over Flynn.
Although no official word from the team, odds are Love and Darko will pack it in for Wednesday's season finale against the Houston Rockets at Target Center. Having 25% odds at the franchise's first-ever No. 1 overall pick in June's NBA Draft would be a small silver-lining to another miserable season.
Even without playing another game, Love appears likely to add another personal accolade to an already impressive statistical season. He has emerged as the front runner for the Most Improved Player award for the leap forward he took in his third NBA season.
In a season that landed him his first trip to the All-Star game, Love has averaged 20.2 points on 47% shooting from the field and 41.7% from behind the arc, a league-high 15.2 rebounds per game and 2.5 assists in 73 games.
The season wraps up Wednesday at Target Center, where the Wolves will look to avoid ending the season on a 15-game win streak. Ticket prices have been reduced where lower-level tickets are $20 and upper-level tickets $5 with the players set to address the fans after the game.